Two scientists from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology have agreed an exclusive licence with Orexigen Therapeutics Inc., a California-based pharmaceutical company, for two series of compounds targeting drug addiction and pain.

The licence deal was concluded in 2015 and the company has now disclosed that they will be pursuing development of specific compounds which show promise in treating pain and opioid and cocaine addiction. The license was negotiated by the University's Research and Innovation Services team.

The two series of compounds were developed by Professor Stephen Husbands and Professor John Lewis. Initial data on one compound family supports potential therapeutic use in the treatment and management of opioid and cocaine addiction. In vivo data for this compound is being presented at Neuroscience 2016, the Annual Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, being held this week in San Diego.

The data were assembled by a team of researchers led by Professor John Traynor of the University of Michigan and suggest a wider use in cocaine as well as opioid abuse.

Dr. Pete Flynn, Head of Development, Regulatory Affairs and Safety at Orexigen, said: “We are extremely encouraged by the work of Prof. Traynor and colleagues and plan to continue development of a lead compound towards investigational new drug application.”

Professor Husbands said, "I am delighted to see compounds from our research enter preclinical development. Modern drug discovery is a highly complex, multi-disciplinary endeavour and industry-academia partnerships such as this can be of great benefit to both groups, hopefully translating into new treatments for patients."

Compounds in the second series show promise in pain relief, with the potential for significantly reduced abuse liability and physical dependence compared to current opioid analgesics.